Did you know there’s wine being made off the coast of Lake Huron? With it’s rich agricultural history, burgeoning food scene and clay loam soils, it’s a marvel this hasn’t happened sooner.
Maelstrom Winery in Seaforth and Alton Farms Estate Winery in near by Lambton County have been making wine for a few years now. The spring of 2006 saw the planting of Alton Farms’ first test acre, with more than fifteen different varieties. Meanwhile, the Landsboroughs of Maelstrom have kept over 8 acres of vines since 2009, including Marquette, Cab Franc and cold loving varietals like Baco Noir and Frontenac Blanc.
Nearby in Grand Bend, Dark Horse Estate Winery is slated to open this spring, having had their ‘tying of the vines’ ceremony this past September. They’ve already released two icewine varietals — a vidal with hints of apricot and honey; and a cabernet franc that’s got classic red berry notes.
Right now though, it’s the imminent arrival of winery number four, that’s got the region buzzing. The soon to be open winery is being built surrounding the Hessenland Inn, and is slated to open next spring.
Frank and Elizabeth Ihrig put vines in the ground last year in a half-acre test plot and according to Canadian Restaurant News plan to plant five or six acres in the future. The couple are not new to food and wine tourism — they’ve been running the Hessenland Inn for over a decade.
The small inn has extensive gardens and a charming dining room for 75 guests. In the kitchen, they focus on using local lake fish, meat and vegetables from a nearby grower making it a true expression of the region.
On opening the winery, Frank said ?we see it as a good fit to what we�re already doing, we�re not planning on becoming a huge winery long term � We really do want to create our own terroir.?
They’re still in the experimental phase — having planted Cabernet Franc, Frontenac Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Marquette and German white wine grape Siegerrebe, also known as Victory Vine to determine which will work best in Huron County. The region’s winters can be quite harsh, which means that like the determined winemakers of Prince Edward County, they will need to bury their vines.
Frank is optimistic though. The property is only about 400 metres from the lake, and his hopes are this will keep his vines warm and toasty — like the notes he hopes appear in his first chardonnay come 2018.
For more tastes of Huron County, check out Taste of Huron!
Taste of Huron is an award-winning member-based program of Huron Tourism Association with a mission to celebrate Huron County�s Harvest by promoting locally produced, sustainable foods and culinary excellence on Ontario�s West Coast.